The interview is the most significant part of your job search. All of your efforts prior to the interview can be considered "marketing and research", and now you are entering the "sales" portion of the job search. Remember that almost all of the other candidates have similar academic backgrounds to you, but it will be the interview that determines who will be offered employment. You must learn what the employer is seeking in an applicant and match your strengths to those needs. You also need to understand how various employers view the interview process because it gives you insight into your role and what will be expected of you during the employment interview.
When preparing for an interview, you should practice answering some common conversational and behavioral interview questions. Also, review the STAR Method, which provides a logical approach to answering any question by providing a guided approach to using one of your past successes in responding to the question. Common questions include:
- Tell me about yourself.
- What interests you most about this job?
- Why did you choose your major/degree?
- What do you know about our company?
- Tell me about a time when you managed a team project?
- Give me an example of working with a difficult customer/client?
- Give me an example of when you failed.
- Tell me a time when you felt you like you were a success.
- What is your greatest strength/weakness?
- Why should I hire you?
- Tell me about a time when you exhibited leadership skills.
Interview Training Resources
- OptimalResume Interview Trainer: Walton Career Services offers OptimalResume Interview Trainer, an exciting online
tool that helps you practice and develop your interviewing skills. Using this trainer
will allow you to view videos of tough questions from professional interviewers which
you can answer yourself to practice for a real, upcoming interview. This is an online
interview training system which allows you to login and develop your interviewing
skills at any time. With over 1,800 interview questions, answers, and tutorials to
choose from, you can be confident that OptimalResume Interview Trainer can help you
become interview ready.
- New Users: If you have never logged in to OptimalResume, go to: https://uark.optimalresume.com/validate_user.php. Enter your University of Arkansas student ID number and click "Continue". After your account is created, you will be prompted to create a password and complete a profile with your information.
- Returning Users: Go to: https://uark.optimalresume.com/ and login using your full UARK email address.
- For Help: View our first-time user guide.
- HR Interview Questions & Answers: This is a free mobile app that offers sample interview questions, as well as tips on preparing for interviews, group discussions, dressing for interviews, and do's and don'ts for interviews.
- Interview Boot Camp: This PowerPoint presentation provides basic interview tips.
Researching the Organization
It is important to research the organization prior to an interview. You will likely be asked what you know about the company and/or why you would be a good fit for the position. Researching the company before the interview will help you answer these questions. Find out everything you can about the organization – What is their business? Who are their major competitors? What projects/initiatives are they currently working on? The more you know, the more interested and motivated you will appear. Read through the organization's website to learn more about their mission and values. Also, the University Library offers several databases to assist with your research, including LexisNexis, which provides an in depth report of many large organizations.
The most important communication during a job interview is often the unspoken kind. Body language, or nonverbal communication, can let interviewers know more about you than what you tell them.
- Hand Shake: The initial nonverbal impression of the candidate comes through the handshake. Don't be timid, slide you palm all the way in and deliver a firm, confident handshake.
- Sitting: If there are several seating options to choose from, ask your interviewer for instructions. Do not just assume and take a seat. When you sit, slide close to the back of the chair and sit tall and straight. Sitting on the edge of the seat can make you look eager, but also scared and nervous. Always maintain a comfortable space, about 3 feet from the interviewer. Shortening that space can feel invasive and inappropriately intimate. Women should not cross legs but sit with legs together. Men should avoid sitting with legs too wide apart or crossed with the ankle on top of the knee.
- Hands: You can sit with your hands clasped together or hold on to a small briefcase organizer through the interview. Avoid steeping your fingers, particularly in the upright position, when answering a question. This can be perceived as arrogant. Hand habits, like nail biting, hair twirling, touching your face and hand twitching, can distract the interviewer and convey nervousness and insecurity.
- Eye Contact: Eye contact conveys confidence and respect, but staring at the interviewer is not appropriate. And avoiding eye contact, especially while answering a question, can convey dishonesty.
- The Interviewer's Body Language: Don't just listen to what your interview is saying, watch his/her body language. It can reveal how the interview is going. If the interviewer touches his/her nose, he/she is disapproving somewhat of what you are saying. If he/she looks at the watch or shuffles papers, you are not on the right track. If the interviewer leans towards you, he/she is interested in what you are saying and is listening to you. If he/she is leaning back on the chair, he/she is evaluating you with a critical eye. If he/she suddenly moves from relaxing in the chair to sitting upright, you have said something that needs to be evaluated from a different perspective. You can tell if a difficult question is coming if the interviewer places his/her fingertips together in an upright steeple-like position. If the interviewer stands up, the interview is over. (source: Los Angeles Times Career Builder)
The best way to get rid of bad nonverbal habits is to become aware of them. Practice the interview with a friend or family member. Using a video camera to tape a mock interview can be even more helpful. Get your mock interview partner to ask you tough questions that would make you nervous and susceptible to bad body language. Notice what you do under pressure and be conscious of it.
Dressing for Interview Success
While the college campus may be the perfect forum in which to exhibit your flair for the latest in fashion style, the interview is not the place to do so. Campus fashions and work fashions are two different worlds. Remember, you should be doing the talking, not your clothes. Many people do not like to wear neckties or heels, but you need to dress appropriately to make a great first impression. Even though many companies have relaxed the internal company dress code, interviews still follow the conservative standard.
When considering interview attire, you do need to go out and buy a whole new wardrobe. Go for quality over quantity. One or two well-chosen business suits will serve you all the way to the first day on the job and beyond. (After you get a job and learn what the standard "uniform" is for the company, you can begin to expand your workplace wardrobe.) For now, no one will fault you for wearing the same sharp outfit each time you interview. If you desire some variety within a limited budget, you might consider varying your shirt/blouse/tie/accessories as a simple way to change your look without breaking your wallet. And please remember, Walton College students have a free resource available for business casual and business professional attire. The Walton College Career Closet can give you access to the clothes you need for interviews, career fairs, business meetings, and any activity where you need to look your best.